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Introduction Good Water Changes Everything
By Daniel Lak The Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project in Nepal empowers the Tharu minority and keeps students in school.
The Way to Water Equality
By Daniel Lak Women and minorities in rural Nepal ensure that their voices are heard in the management of a community water project.
The Power of Water
By Prashant Jha Electricity generated by a hydropower plant has brought better health care and schools to a rural village in Nepal.
Roads That Move Mountains
By Daniel Lak With new roads, rural people who live in the world’s highest mountain range can access markets and increase their incomes.
The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) or its Board of Governors or the governments they represent. Accounts presented here are anecdotal and do not represent comprehensive impacts of projects or programs. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this publication and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. By making any designation of or reference to a particular territory or geographic area, or by using the term “country” in this publication, ADB does not intend to make any judgments as to the legal or other status of any territory or area. ADB encourages printing or copying information exclusively for personal and noncommercial use with proper acknowledgment of ADB. Users are restricted from reselling, redistributing, or creating derivative works for commercial purposes without the express, written consent of ADB. Note: In this publication, “$” refers to US dollars. Cover photo: Ariel Javellana
s one of the world’s poorest countries and under a new political system after years of civil conflict, Nepal finally initiated a peace process to achieve lasting peace in 2006. The peace process has been arduous but on the positive side, is continuing and progress, albeit slow in being achieved. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Nepal have a longstanding development partnership that dates back to 1966 when Nepal became a founding member of ADB. ADB has been assisting the country in improving its physical infrastructure and developing human capital. ADB has played a major role in assisting Nepal to improve access to water supply and sanitation, build rural roads, promote education, and quickly recover from the damages caused by the conflict and natural disasters. Focusing on results, ADB has made development effectiveness central to its operations. ADB advocates practical solutions for sustainable development through raising growth, building
capacity, and accelerating progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. This brochure presents a selection of impact stories to portray the many ways Nepal is overcoming the everyday hardships that its people face. It narrates the stories of people whose lives have been transformed by innovative ways of delivering services, such as clean tap water and better sanitation. A new hydroelectric power plant, for example, tapping one of Nepal’s potentially greatest resources, is not only generating power but also boosting education and health; new rural roads are cutting hours of walking time to once-remote villages; and water towers have brought pride to ethnic minorities. I would like to thank staff at the ADB resident mission in Nepal and in the South Asia Department for their strong efforts in catalyzing these development results. I believe these stories of success will continue to inspire staff in achieving much more in the future to ensure that millions of people are lifted out of poverty and are able to see positive changes in their lives.
Sultan Hafeez Rahman Director General South Asia Department
By daniel Lak
Impact Stories from Nepal
The Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project in Nepal empowers the Tharu minority and keeps students in school.
PARSA, NEPAL to search for work in the fertile plains along the Indian border. With new opportunities come new problems though, and none more acute than water and sanitation. Sher Man Tamang remembers how waterborne diseases were endemic in Parsa as recently as 5 years ago. “With all the new settlement, there was so much pollution of streams and water,” he said. “It was getting serious and something had to change.” Something did. The Nepal government decided in the late 1990s to address Parsa’s need for clean water and sought help from ADB and others. The new water tower and twin deep wells resulted. Today, dozens of similar projects are connecting taps and toilets in communities throughout Nepal.
gleaming white tower looms behind the Parsa bazaar, easily visible over the sprawl of shops, restaurants, honking buses, and houses along Nepal’s main East–West Highway. It is an overhead tank, 20 meters high, and it helps provide nearly 2,000 households in the town with a clean, 24-hour supply of drinking water.
More People, Less Water
“Thirty years ago, there wasn’t even a town here,” said Sher Man Tamang, a 62-year-old shop owner and head of the local water users and sanitation committee (WUSC). “Things really changed in the 1990s, and now we’re almost a small city.” Unregulated urban areas continue to grow along newly built highways in Nepal, as people leave marginal farms in rugged hill country
Engaging Indigenous People
Clean water is something the town’s residents are hugely proud of. “We drink straight from the tap, and no one gets sick,” said housewife Shanta Chaudhary. She demonstrates by turning on a faucet and cupping her hand underneath the flow. But it is not just the steady supply and purity of the water that makes the Parsa project special. Though its recent growth comes from migration, Parsa district has long been dominated by Nepal’s indigenous Tharu people. Before settlers felled the teak forests of the Nepali plains for farming half a century ago, the Tharu were hunters and gatherers. This project has included the Tharu people in the planning and implementation, an effort to raise
Clean, accessible water has changed lives in Parsa.
Good Water Changes Everything 3
Families can drink clean water straight from their taps without getting sick.
them out of systemic poverty caused by their loss of access to the natural resources that sustained them historically. Water is leading the way, said Lal Mani Chaudhary— a common last name among Tharu people. Lal Mani is an activist and local member of the Constituent Assembly. “When I was a child, no Tharu family had a toilet or a water tap. All of us were poor, but we’re changing all that, not just here but across Nepal,” Lal Mani said. Now, the WUSC helps Tharu people take part in making decisions that affect them.
A Religious Experience
Behind the water tower, a small white temple sits on a patch of grass overlooking nearby rice fields. Smoke drifts from inside the stucco building and from small stone idols near the door. It is a shrine of the Tharus’ own religion, not of Hinduism, the majority religion in Nepal, said Lal Mani. He calls out to a man knelt in prayer inside the temple. That man is named Somala Chaudhary. He closes and locks the door behind him, while clutching burning incense sticks and a few smoldering stalks of rice. “It’s a traditional prayer, giving thanks for the harvest,” said Somala, whose family donated the land for the water tower, the WUSC building, and the two deep boreholes.
Impact Stories from Nepal
Lal Mani Chaudhary is an activist for the Tharu minority. The water project gives Tharu people an equal voice in water management.
“When I was a child, no Tharu family had a toilet or a water tap. All of us were poor, but we’re changing all that, not just here but across Nepal.”
—Lal Mani, local member of the Constituent Assembly
“We had this land. It had been ours for generations,” Somala said, “and [we] decided to give it to the water project. It was our dharma, our religious duty.” The villages and community wards that receive water from the project are scattered over a wide area. The pressure provided by the tower means water pipes gush nearly as strongly a dozen kilometers away as at the well-head. “People pay a small amount for 10,000 liters a month,” he said, “and they can afford it. What’s the price of good health? We tell them it’s worth everything.” Not that it was easy to convince consumers to pay for something that had always been free. “We took around two empty mineral water bottles and got people to watch as we filled them: one from the traditional surface supply and another from our taps,” said the government’s district health officer B.R. Duwadi. “Then we’d ask them to wait half an hour. They’d see that our tap produced consistently clear water while their own source was murky, even after letting it sit and settle.” Paying for water compels people to conserve it and changes habits that cause pollution, said Tiresh Khatri of the government’s Department of Water Supply and Sewerage. “It’s a balance between charging too much and charging too little,” Khatri said, “but this project has it right. We’ve identified 265 communities where we can do this, and we’ve already started in 29 of them.”
The Price for Clean Water
None of this has come cheaply, but in a unique twist for Nepal, local people helped pay for the project’s construction and give a monthly stipend for the water they use. The water tower is still clearly visible from the hamlet of Baireni, about a 10-minute drive away. WUSC chair Sher Man Tamang is proud that almost every villager here has agreed to pay for water— something unheard of a generation ago. Next to the old surface water pump, still in use for washing clothes and irrigating gardens, six taps jut from the ground, each attached to a water meter. Sher Man Tamang turns a faucet and points to the slowly ticking numbers on the face of the meter.
Somala Chaudhary’s family donated the land for the new water tower. Somala said the gift was their religious duty.
Good Water Changes Everything 5
“These facilities have changed everything. Hardly any students fall ill and miss school now.”
—Narayan Shrestha, headmaster at a local primary school
Toilets and Taps for Education
At a local primary school, headmaster Narayan Shrestha teaches a regular Friday class on water and sanitation. Toilet blocks and water taps built by the WUSC sit in the schoolyard, next to a handwashing station festooned with messages about preventing pollution and disease. “These facilities have changed everything,” Shrestha said. “Hardly any students fall ill and miss school now.” As he scrubs his hands at a tap, 10-year-old Sandeep Chaudhary said he takes the message back home and spreads the word to his family.
Explaining that through the program his family has a tap and a toilet, Sandeep adds, “Good water changes everything.” n Project Information
Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project (2000–2009) Financing: $35.0 million, Asian Development Fund (ADB); $600,000, Japan Special Fund (ADB); $8.0 million, local government; $10.9 million, Government of Nepal
Women Sing for Social Change
Impact Stories from Nepal
By daniel Lak
PARSA, NEPAL eneath the spreading limbs of a sacred peepul (fig) tree, a group of Nepali women stood with their heads bowed, hands clasped in front of them. One of them raised her head and sang in pure, high-pitched tones. “Let us remember to always wash our hands,” she trilled in Nepali, “that way we won’t pass on disease.” The song continued and others joined in on the chorus. A hand drum kept the rhythm, a staccato and infectious beat. Suddenly an older woman in a red woolen wrap stepped forward and started to dance. She swayed and spun around, knees bent, head tilted back, and her hands slicing through the air. Her arms moved in complex whorls and as the song intensified, she sped up, spinning, and gesturing faster and faster.
The effect is hypnotic and a crowd of visiting government and ADB employees clap in unison to the infectious beat.
Women Making a Difference
The singer was Netra Kala Lohani and she leads the troupe calling itself Durga Mandir Toli. It is one of the many mothers’ groups that have sprung up all over Nepal to sing, dance, and spread socially relevant messages through their performances. “Every year we have a competition,” said Lohani, who is in her mid-40s, “and our group always does well.” Each of the municipal wards in this part of the southern district of Parsa has a group of women who sing and dance to spread the word about issues such as water, sanitation, and family planning.
The gleaming white tower that looms over this field holds clean water for the booming town of Parsa.
Mothers’ groups started really catching on in Nepal in the late 1980s and 1990s, largely in the hill districts to the north of Parsa and other border areas. Mostly they were a way for women in strongly patriarchal settings to socialize, share their problems, and have some fun in otherwise workaday lives, said writer and activist Manjushree Thapa.
“It helped give women the power to make change,” Thapa said. n
Winning Space to Promote Change
“They started out that way but they realized that people would give them money after they performed,” Thapa said, “so they started collecting funds and at first, they built temples in their villages.” She said that the women chose to invest in temples because they could use the buildings for private meetings and time away from the pressing demands of families and husbands. “Men didn’t object to temples,” Thapa said. Inside those buildings, the women began reaching out to nongovernment organizations and activists for advice on health, education, and family planning. Mothers’ groups acquired a whole new reason for being.
In Parsa, women adapt folk and religious songs for social advocacy.
Good Water Changes Everything 7
Song and dance routines with religious and folk motifs were adapted for social advocacy and helping villagers face daily challenges.
Impact Stories from Nepal 8
Parvati Tiwari is an activist for clean water and social inclusion in Banshkor.
the Way to
By daniel Lak
Women and minorities in rural Nepal ensure that their voices are heard in the management of a community water project.
BANSHKOR, NEPAL arvati Tiwari has a secret weapon in her fight for clean water and equality for disadvantaged people in Nepal. It’s her right hand. Members of Tiwari’s committee, men and women both, nod as she speaks, getting ready for another discussion of the growing demand for pumps and toilets and the urgent need to maintain existing taps. Parvati is talking about much more than just a handshake, sanitation, and water. She is talking about inclusion. Her committee has four women out of nine members, and representatives from four Hindu castes and two local tribes. As usual, she has a pithy, humorous take on the situation. “An oxcart has two wheels,” she said. “That’s men and women. It has a yoke, an axle, a seat. Those are other castes and communities. And they all have to be working for the cart to be useful to us. You can’t exclude any of them.”
Anyone who meets the 45-year-old head of the water users and sanitation committee in this village in the southwest of the country gets a hearty handshake, often to their surprise or even shock. The usual greeting between Nepalis is a simple word, namaste (literally, “I bow to you”), said with palms pressed together before the chest. Women never touch men who are not close relatives. But Tiwari is having none of that. “I threw off my headscarf and learned how to shake hands when I started out on this work of mine. We women have to change things and this is how I’m doing it,” she proclaims with a big gaptoothed smile.
A Fount of Inclusion
In villages like Banshkor across Nepal, a program, funded by ADB and run by government, is drilling
the Way to Water Equality 9
Banshkor village benefits from a community-based water supply and sanitation project sponsored by ADB.
Impact Stories from Nepal
“Everyone comes and uses this tap. We built it together, we make decisions on the program together, so naturally we share the water.”
—Bishnu Bista, member of Banshkor’s water users and sanitation committee
wells and providing good sanitation in villages. Mainly, though, the emphasis is on involving every single caste, religious group, and tribe in a given location, and both genders, too. The project even employs sociologists to profile communities and advise on how to include everyone. Heading that team is social scientist Mishri Prasad Shrestha, who points out that Nepal’s recent civil war had a lot to do with people feeling left out of development in the 1990s. “If we don’t get the whole community involved in this, then it’s not worth it. It’s not enough to provide water without enabling inclusion,” Shrestha said. The founder of modern Nepal, the 18th-century king Prithvi Narayan Shah, once said he ruled over a “garden of four main Hindu castes and 36 subcastes.” If anything, modern anthropologists have found the country even more diverse than that. However, since King Prithvi Narayan Shah’s time, just a few privileged communities have thrived. The Community-Based Water Supply and Sanitation Project aims to change that paradigm within participating villages.
Water Under the Bridge
About 40 kilometers from Banshkor is the village of Rajpur, a scattering of hamlets on a riverine plain, sculpted with rice paddies and clumps of mango trees and bamboo. The community is a mix of castes and ethnic groups, including indigenous Tharus and Dalits at
Life is easier for women who no longer have to walk great distances for clean water.
One of 55 iron hand pumps installed by the project sits outside the mud-wattle home of 21-year-old Bishnu Bista. Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a high-caste woman like Bishnu to share a water pump with lower-caste neighbors. But in Rajpur, she said, everyone who is part of the water and sanitation scheme has to share. She doesn’t mind. “Everyone comes and uses this tap,” she said. ”We built it together, we make decisions on the program together, so naturally we share the water.”
“We fell ill a lot. That water was no good,” he said, gesturing to the youngest of his six children. “They missed a lot of school.” As well, Shanta said, women and girls had to spend hours each day walking a long way to the nearest water source that his low caste was allowed to use. “It took so much time,” said Shanta.
Well Worth the Work
Shanta Bahadur BK contributed labor to construct the pumps and toilets. He is a Dalit and said community relations have improved vastly from earlier times. “We get along, and working together has helped,” said Shanta, a 45-year-old blacksmith. “We all dug this well, then carried the cement.” Nearly 20% of the community contribution to the program is supposed to be in labor, 5% in cash.
Maintaining the Pumps, and the Peace
Maintaining the new pumps is a constant topic of discussion at regular meetings of the water users’ committee. Members sat in a circle under a thatch-roofed bus shelter near a crossroad. Treasurer Mina KC was telling the group that they need to look at raising money for a maintenance fund, and not just depend on handouts from the government. It is important, she said, to have some financial independence.
the Way to Water Equality 11
the low end of the Hindu caste system, Brahmins and Chhetris higher up, and a few Muslim families.
It is worth it, said Shanta. The cool clear water that gushes from the pump comes from nearly 80 meters underground and it is much better than what came from the shallow wells that his family used to depend upon.
Men listened respectfully as she talked, not something commonly seen in patriarchal Nepal. After the meeting, Mina was full of praise for a program that has brought clean water and tolerance to her community. “Access to water used to be a source of tension and even conflict,” she said. “High castes would stop low castes from using easy sources and women walked for miles to get water. It caused resentment, gossip, even violence. That’s not happening to anyone involved in this program. Not anymore.” n
Community-Based Water Supply and Sanitation Project (2003–2010) Financing: $24.0 million, ADB; $7.7 million, Government of Nepal; $3.6 million, beneficiaries; $0.4 million, local agencies
Impact Stories from Nepal 12
Women have more time to engage in income-generating activities, like candle-making, now that water is readily available.
Nothing She Can’t do
By daniel Lak
BANSHKOR, NEPAL t is enough of a challenge being poor in rural Nepal, but being disabled is something else altogether. Just ask Sajada Khatun Musalman. The 40-year-old woman from the southern village of Banshkor has been totally blind since birth. In her hut at the edge of the leafy hamlet, you could hear the honking horns of cross-country buses on a nearby highway. Pigeons, bred for racing by local men, cooed softly in elaborate wattle dovecotes and a radio played Bollywood music from India. But Musalman wasn’t sitting around and listening.
cities and towns. People with disabilities in rural areas rarely have access to support or training to help them overcome their challenges, so the impact of a project such as this one on people like Musalman is huge. “If we needed water before, I had to take someone to guide me there and back, about 20 minutes’ walk,” Musalman said, mimicking how she used to have to balance a heavy brimming jug on her head. “It’s easy now. The pump is across the road, and soon we’ll have this toilet.” Before her daughters were old enough to lead the way and carry some water themselves, she had to wait until neighbors were finished with their own work, or were already going to the well for their own water. “I needed someone to help get to the field that we used as a toilet as well,” she said. “This is so much better.” n the Way to Water Equality 13
Since ADB installed a clean water pump close to her house, Sajada Khatun Musalman no longer has to wait for her neighbors to guide her to the nearest source.
A Woman of Strength
She was busy spreading mud to build a platform for a new toilet for her family compound. Dressed in a purple sari, she bent low, using calloused hands to smooth the brown clay. A mason was coming later to lay concrete. “There’s nothing I can’t do around here,” she said, “if there’s someone to tell me where things are.” That someone is usually one of her four daughters aged 4 to 17. Musalman’s husband and sons have left the village to work in India and she’s most definitely in command in the allfemale household left behind. “I cook, clean things, repair the house, and make sure everyone gets to school on time,” said a woman whose disability meant she never had a chance to pick up academic skills.
Independence and Time Saved
Banshkor is something of a model village for Nepal’s ADB-backed Community-Based Water Supply and Sanitation Project. Nepal struggles to provide services to its able-bodied citizens in Project Information
Community-Based Water Supply and Sanitation Project (2003–2010) Financing: $24.0 million, ADB; $7.7 million, Government of Nepal; $3.6 million, beneficiaries; $0.4 million, local agencies
the Power of Water
By Prashant Jha
Electricity generated by a hydropower plant has brought better health care and schools to a rural village in Nepal.
Impact Stories from Nepal
ahesh Karki, 11, his sister Rani, 9, and his brother Santosh Raj, 5, walked into the Khimti Project Clinic and were greeted by the nurse who had helped bring them into the world. The youngest had a head cold, and Mahesh was instructed on how to treat him. Shankar Majhi was also in the clinic with his 14-year-old brother Krishna, who has glandular tuberculosis. “I would have had to walk hours even to give basic daily medication if not for this clinic,” said Majhi. “This is not only comfortable, but I know the treatment is reliable.” Every day, between 50 and 70 patients visit the clinic for facilities that government health posts in the area are unable to offer. The clinic has been made possible as part of the Khimti Hydropower Project—Nepal’s first private sector foray into hydropower development.
The Khimti hydropower plant, which came into operation in 2000, is a “run of the river” plant,
Khimti hydropower plant uses the power of the river to fuel a local health clinic and a school.
the Power of Water 15
“Now for the first time, villagers will see light.”
—Badri KC, chair of the Haluakhola Mini-Hydro Construction Committee
which means that it uses the natural flow and elevation drop of a river to generate power. It has an installed capacity of 60 MW, and was built at a cost of about $140 million, supported by ADB and other international development organizations. ADB’s loan covered almost 25% of the project cost. Promoted by Himal Power, the electricity is sold to the Nepal Electricity Authority and supplies 15% of national energy consumption. When the 50-year license ends, Himal Power will hand over the power plant to the Nepal government. The project has been a boon for the locals whose lives have been touched in many ways by rural electrification.
(UNDP) to deliver electricity to villages near the project site. On completion, the small plant will have a capacity of 400 kilowatts (kW)—adding to power produced by the Jhankre mini hydropower plant. Together, the two plants will comprise the Khimti Rural Electrification Cooperative and will provide power to 10 villages in the area. The transformer is being taken to members of the Gelu village development committee, KC said. After digging a route for wiring 5 to 7 years ago, the state electricity authority did not complete the work. “Now for the first time, villages here will see light,” said KC. Not only does the area enjoy a continuous supply of electricity at a time when the rest of the country suffers crippling power cuts that can last as long as 12 hours, but locals do not have to pay as much per unit as the national average.
Impact Stories from Nepal
The Karki children were not only born in the Khimti project clinic, they also study at the project school. Established more than 15 years ago, it has 480 students and is maintained by a grant from Himal Power. The fees for children from the community are lower than those for students whose family members come from outside to work in the hydropower project. Seventeen-year-old Ram Krishna is preparing to take his grade 10 graduation exam. His father runs a small shop at the local market. “The school has science labs, computers and internet facilities, and English-medium instruction,” Ram explained. “I am the first person in the family to have studied to this level and have learnt everything I know here.” He hopes to go on to higher education in Kathmandu. The previous year, Kiran Ghimire, another student from the school, topped the entire district in the exams.
Electrification has brought tangible improvements to livelihoods in the area, which is obvious in the village of Khimtibesi, a few kilometers from the project site. From here, at one end of village’s main bazaar, the Milk Producers Cooperative Organization buys milk from farmers. The cooperative has collection centers for different village development committees. Electricity supplied from the Khimti project enables the cooperative to keep the milk in cold storage before it is sold to the dairy in the town of Dolakha and at the local market. Chandra Bahadur, 39, has seen improvements. In the past, he only had one cow and could barely sell a liter of milk a day. Like him, many milk producers were catering to a small market. “Now, I have two cows and sell 4 to 5 liters of milk every day to the cooperative,” Bahadur said. “They have a guaranteed bigger market because the milk can be kept cold and stored for longer.” The higher income has helped Bahadur feed his family more nutritious food. His 16-year-old son has been able to continue his college education, while his 13-year-old daughter goes to school.
Seeing the Light
Next to the school, Badri KC helps load a transformer onto a tractor. KC chairs the Haluakhola Mini-Hydro Construction Committee—a joint project of Himal Power and the United Nations Development Programme
Krishna Mahji, 14, receives treatment for glandular tuberculosis at his neighborhood clinic.
Benefits that Nourish
Deep in Nepal’s rural hills, one would least expect to come across a bakery. But the Shri Mangla Devi bakery is a landmark in Khimtibesi. Every afternoon, its owners prepare cream buns, bread, coconut biscuits, cakes, and pastries in a large oven powered by electricity supplied by the mini hydropower plants. The products are then packed and sent to markets in nearby towns like Devitar, Kirne, and Manthali. Daily sales amount to more than $100. Originally from the southern plains of the country, Ganesh KC—unrelated to Badri KC—has been employed in the bakery for more than 2 years. He attends morning classes at Tamakoshi High School and works at the bakery from 10 a.m. until late in the evening. “If there were no electricity, there would be no oven, no cakes, and no bakery,” said KC. “Our lives changed once the Khimti plant came to the area and lit up the neighboring communities.”
The Karki siblings were all delivered at this clinic. On this day, the youngest had a cold.
the Power of Water 17
More than 400 such families have benefited by using the cooperative to sell their milk instead of being forced to distribute it in a limited area on the day of production.
The Power of Community Investment
In the last week of March 2010, Himal Power handed over the entire Khimti Rural Electrification Cooperative infrastructure and maintenance responsibilities to the local community. “This is in keeping with our larger philosophy,’’ Tom Solberg, general manager of Himal Power, explains. “We have always involved the community in prioritizing the development to be done with the resources available. This paves the way for a strong sense of community ownership, responsibility, and transparency in all our initiatives.” Through schools, health facilities, electricity, and small enterprises, the Khimti hydropower plant has brought a qualitative change in the lives
of people in the rural villages of Dolakha and Ramechhap. As Narayan Dhoj Khadka, who chairs the Khimti Rural Electrification Cooperative, puts it: “Now we know that electricity truly makes the world run and opens it up for people like us.” n Project Information
Himal Power Limited (2004–present) Financing: Loan—ADB, Eksportfinans, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Nordic Development Fund (NDF), and the Norweigan Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD); Subloan—ADB and IFC
Impact Stories from Nepal 18
Electricity is critical for many people’s jobs.
Ganesh KC has been employed at the Shri Mangla Devi bakery for 2 years. Without electricity, there would be no bakery, he said.
the Power of Water 19
Impact Stories from Nepal 20
ADB-supported roads are helping Nepal’s rural people reach markets and hospitals despite challenging terrain.
By daniel Lak
roads that Move Mountains 21 BAGLUNG, NEPAL Baglung. He spoke from the front seat of a crowded jeep, waiting to get around a traffic jam on the Baglung–Bartibang road. This route, through Nepal’s Middle Hills, west of Kathmandu, was built and is being upgraded with ADB assistance. Asked if he minds waiting while jams are cleared and construction continues on the road, Krishna gestured at the load of goods and food bundled onto the roof of the jeep. “You mean walk and carry that?” he asked, shaking his head in disbelief at such a question.
With new roads, rural people who live in the world’s highest mountain range can access markets and increase their incomes.
Nepali geographer once observed that if it were possible to flatten all the mountains in his homeland, the country would be larger than the People’s Republic of China. The farmers, traders, and workers who live in those hills hardly need a scientist’s insight to know that they live in impossibly rugged territory. They experience it every day. “It used to take me 8 hours to walk down to market from the village, more to come back,” said Krishna Sapkota, who lives in the remote village of Golkot, about 90 kilometers from
This [road-building project] is actually about easing rural poverty. Roads are just the means to do that.”
—Narendra Chand, ADB project officer
A clamor of mostly female voices joined the conversation as a mechanical digger pounds its shovel into a stubborn boulder embedded in the road surface. No one minded the wait, it seemed, or the harsh clang of steel on stone. Nepal, has 3 times more all-weather roads; and Greece, a similar size, has 10 times more. Obviously, the country’s rough terrain and monsoon-drenched climate are major challenges to road builders. Once a new route has been cut through hills and roaring rivers, maintenance can be as expensive and timeconsuming as construction. Development partners and governments factor this in, and take a different view of the role of roads in Nepal’s development. “This [road-building project] is actually about easing rural poverty,” said Narendra Chand, ADB project officer. “Roads are just the means to do that.”
A Road Out of Poverty
Baglung is a major town, a district headquarters in Nepal’s midwestern hills. The peaks of the Himalayas tower high over brick houses and terraces of wheat, potato, and rice. It is also near the end of the paved highway that starts in Kathmandu, 300 kilometers to the east. Nepal is a newcomer to the notion of road transport. The first road into the Kathmandu valley from outside the country was not built until the 1950s. Cambodia, slightly smaller than
Impact Stories from Nepal 22
A vehicle attacks the rugged terrain of Nepal’s Himalayan mountains.
Badri Bahadur KC sells conveniences to a hillside community of more than 500 people. The road has improved his business.
The trip along the Baglung–Bartibang road in the tire tracks of Krishna Sapkota’s jeep was jolting and uncomfortable, but the dust and potholes ceased to matter as villagers explained how easy access to the country’s highway network and markets has changed their lives. Fifty-year-old Badri Bahadur KC sells soap, vegetables, soft drinks, and Chinese-made batteries to a hillside community of more than 500 people. “Never mind this little village,” he said, pointing up a steep hillside to where clouds were whisking over the top of a ridge. “They come down from up there, about 800 meters above, to buy my stock.” Prices for goods easily brought in by truck plummeted, Badri said, and everyone around reaps the rewards of easy access. The only problem is that the cars churn up dust. “I do have to wipe the dust off everything now,” Badri said, grinning. “That was a less of a
The road has made Badri so successful that he has even opened smaller shops in outlying communities, supplying them from his village deliveries. He said members of his family are working in the new businesses, and do not have to leave the hills to find jobs in Kathmandu or abroad.
Cashing in on Passion Farming
Small shops are not the only business to see big gains from the new road. Gambheera Khandel owns a farm on a couple of hectares of steep land about 20 kilometers beyond Badri’s network of stores. Her rough stone house is surrounded by a rich array of cash crops that she sells in the market in Baglung. Green coffee beans dangle from vines, sugar cane rustles in the breeze, and the air is fragrant with the smell of oranges and patches of herbs. Mostly the road helps my dairy business,” the 67-year-old grandmother said, patting one of her three water buffalo on its bony rump.
roads that Move Mountains 23
Dusting Off the Merchandise
problem when porters were carrying things up the trails in baskets.”
“Mostly the road helps my dairy business. We had to carry the milk down to town in shoulder baskets and if anyone fell, well, you can see the problem.”
—Gambheera Khandel, 67-year-old dairy and vegetable farmer
“We had to carry the milk down to town in shoulder baskets and if anyone fell, well, you can see the problem. These days, she takes her buffalo milk in metal containers to a small dairy just across the road and trucks bear it to market, along with the coffee beans, citrus fruit, root ginger, and other things she has grown for sale. “We’re doing a lot better than we used to,” Gambheera said, crushing peppercorns in a stone pestle for the family dinner. She explained that plants and gardens have always been a passion, and the road gives her a way to get new seeds and new ideas, while marketing the result.
Narendra Gawle, the government engineer in charge of maintenance and new construction, said such a road will transform his country. He used computer jargon to make his point. “It’s all about connectivity,” he said. “We’re linking up Nepalis with Nepalis, giving them networks, and standing back while they make us all prosperous.”
Providing Safe Passage
The road does more than increase the wealth of the people who use it; it also protects their health and, at times, may even save their lives. At the highest point on this section of the Baglung–Bartibang road—2,300 meters above sea level—the icy knives of two Himalayan peaks dominate the horizon. It is cool and the winds carry a whiff of the snow and ice on the mountains. Kamalapadi Khandel, of no relation to Gambheera, is the secretary of the village development council up here. “When my nephew was born, about 30 years ago,” said the septuagenarian, “there were complications. The baby couldn’t come out. So I helped carry my brother’s wife all the way to Baglung hospital; three of us took turns.” “It took a whole day and she was crying and in pain all of the way,” Kamalapadi said. “Luckily, the hospital did a good job, but now we have an ambulance. I’d hate to do that again.” n
Impact Stories from Nepal
Connecting the Country
The government has ambitious plans to turn this road, and others along the same central belt of the country, into a highway linking the country’s eastern and western borders.
A roadside eatery has benefited from increased traffic.
Before the road, locals often transported goods on their backs. Now many have the option of moving materials by jeep.
Rural Infrastructure Development Project (2006–2009) Financing: $800,000, Japan Special Fund (ADB); $30,000, Japan Special Fund (ADB); $4,000, Technical Assistance Special Fund (ADB); $40.0 million, Asian Development Fund (ADB); $1.9 million, Swiss Development Corporation, $4.2 million, local government units; $800,000 beneficiaries; $14.8 million, Government of Nepal Decentralized Rural Infrastructure Project (2004–2011) Financing: $40.0 million, ADB; $14.7 million, Government of Nepal; $4.2 million, local governments; $1.9 million, Swiss Development Corporation; $800,000, beneficiaries
roads that Move Mountains 25
Construction machines smooth the way for the ADB-supported Baglung–Bartibang road.
Inclusive Growth: Impact Stories from Nepal Beset by many obstacles unique to its extremely rich cultural mix and towering terrain, Nepal is embracing its strengths to raise itself from one of the world’s least-developed countries. The stories here present projects in hydropower, road building, and water and sanitation that give a glimpse of some of the ways the country, only recently coming out of conflict after many years, is moving forward again. The stories portray many of the people these projects are helping and the solutions Asian Development Bank (ADB) is supporting.
About the Asian Development Bank ADB’s vision is an Asia and Pacific region free of poverty. Its mission is to help its developing member countries substantially reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of their people. Despite the region’s many successes, it remains home to two-thirds of the world’s poor: 1.8 billion people who live on less than $2 a day, with 903 million struggling on less than $1.25 a day. ADB is committed to reducing poverty through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Based in Manila, ADB is owned by 67 members, including 48 from the region. Its main instruments for helping its developing member countries are policy dialogue, loans, equity investments, guarantees, grants, and technical assistance.
About the Nepal Resident Mission Nepal is a founding member of ADB and, as of 31 December 2009, cumulative lending to the country reached $2.47 billion, with investment grant projects amounting to $495.65 million and technical assistance of $137.9 million. The assistance is focused on agriculture and natural resources, education, water supply and other municipal infrastructure and services, transport and information and communication technology, finance, energy, and public sector management.
Asian Development Bank 6 ADB Avenue, Mandaluyong City 1550 Metro Manila, Philippines www.adb.org Publication Stock No. ARM102206
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